When you think about holiday resorts with large seaside promenades paved with typical local stone glistening in the sun surrounded by soft sandy beaches, in the centre of Portugal’s Silver Coast it paints a completely different image to the one that greeted the teams gathered for the third and final rounds in this years UIM F1H2O World Championship. Come rain or shine though there was a job to get on with and that was qualify as high up that grid for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Figueira Da Foz.
The Maverick Racing ‘French duo’ of Alexandre Bourgeot and his teammate Cedric Deguisne along with Gillman Racing’s Alec Weckstrom of Finland failed to progress to Q2 although Scott Gillman knew that his young rising star would be starting from the back of the grid as continues his steep learning curve.
Once again Andersson was fast out of the blocks, going even quicker than his Q1 time. This time Marit Stromoy joined the likes of Selio and Morin, all of whom had come close to matching the 41.74 seconds posted by Andersson. This time round though Al Qemzi could not find a clean lap to post a time quick enough to progress to the ‘Shoot-Out.’ He said that every time he went out there was always someone just in front, the traffic was tighter than the Friday night rush-hour in Porto. His team-mate the defending World Champion Shaun Torrente, currently lying second in the championship was also battling to progress any further. He had struggled all day with the right hander. ‘It’s not a turn in the true sense of the word’ he said and with barely a minute to go he found himself in seventh place. He then put everything on the line and produced a forty-two second lap time bumping Alberto Comparato, who had earned pole position at the season opener in Italy, down to seventh place. ‘I just let the boat run and it did it’s thing’ said the American who would now have the advantage of calm water to run his two laps in the ‘Shoot-Out.’
Several weeks ago the Sharjah Team took the decision to run their UIM F2 World Championship driver Ferdinand Zandbergen in the last round of the 2021 UIM F1H2O Championship and today the young racer paid them back when he qualified for the Shoot-Out and produced a time good enough for fifth place on the grid in his debut Grand Prix.
‘That was just amazing’ said Zandbergen. ‘I was totally not expecting that.’
Also admitting to a few mistakes was the twice World Champion Sami Selio. ‘I just kept thinking that the propeller I had chosen was a fraction too small’ he said. He went onto explain that with this thought in his mind he then over compensated his normal smooth driving style particularly in the pin turns. Although taking a slightly safer approach he still manged to qualify in third place on the grid for tomorrows race, just ahead of the Norwegian racer Marit Stromoy. She felt a little disappointed with fourth place. ‘I actually had a better time in Free Practice’ she said. ‘Now it’s going to be all about finding the right propeller. I need some acceleration, but I also need a weapon to get past with.’
Rounding out the top six was the French driver Peter Morin, who said that he had a good set up for the rough water but when he went out by himself in the ‘Shoot-Out’ conditions were too flat. He will be the only member of the CTIC Shenzen China Team competing this weekend after his teammate Philippe Chiappe had decided that there had not been enough time for him to prepare properly for this week’s event but will be back to compete next season.
As for the local hero Duarte Benavente, he’s starting from eleventh place on the grid. ‘The plan is to keep it going for the two races by running a stock Mercury engine’ he said. ‘I’m doing everything according to o my plan and I don’t believe it’s a bad one.’
Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Figueira Da Foz will be followed by another qualifying series on Saturday for the Grand Prix of Portugal which concludes the championship on Sunday afternoon.